A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CIGAR BOX
The cigar box, as we know it today, traces its origin back to the American Civil War. Then as today, it was a means of shipping, storing, and preserving cigars.
No one knows exactly how they began, but it appears that, as long as there have been cigar boxes there have been cigar
box guitars. Pencil drawings dating back to the war show soldiers sitting around
the campfire playing guitars and fiddles fashioned out of what appear to be cigar boxes.
They became most popular during the depression as an instrument of poverty.
People were making things from whatever was at hand, so if you had a cigar box, a broom handle, and some bailing wire
or anything remotely resembling those things, you could make an instrument.
The unique sounds of the cigar box guitar became a staple if not a major influence of Appalachian bluegrass, Delta
blues, and even Chicago jazz to some degree. Many undisputedly great musicians
got their start by this means including Roy Clark, B. B. King, Jimi Hendrix, and eight time Grammy winner George Bennson
just to name a few.
Today it is no longer an instrument of poverty, with the ready availability of inexpensive guitars at Wal-Mart
and from various sources on the Internet. The cigar box guitar is enjoying a
Renaissance in modern culture as a piece of functional folk art. Though it has
almost always been a principle instrument in the traditional jug band and has never lost its grip on bluegrass, it is being
rediscovered as a tool of jazz and the blues. Contemporary country artists like
Hank Williams III have also greatly contributed to the cigar box’s rising from the ashes. It has also become the principle instrument in the Prim Rock (or Primitive Rock) movement. These modern bands play on instruments that are almost exclusively hand made from “found” items.